Three Black Women Sweep the Podium at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships for the First Time
History was made at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Tampa, Florida, when Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones, and Jordan Chiles finished in the top three in the all-around standings. This marks the first time the all-around podium at the U.S. Championships was made entirely of Black women and highlights the strides gymnastics has made in diversity and representation.
In 1983, Dianne Durham became the first Black woman to win the all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships but was controversially left off the 1984 Olympic team. Then in 1992, Betty Okino and Dominique Dawes became the first Black Olympic gymnastics medalists when they helped the U.S. team win the bronze medal, and four years later Dawes became the first Black gymnast to win Olympic gold. Gabby Douglas then became the first Black Olympic all-around champion in 2012 and was followed by Simone Biles four years later. Durham, Dawes, Tasha Schwikert, and Biles were all national all-around champions, but never before has the entire podium been comprised of Black gymnasts.
Konnor McClain won the all-around gold medal at the 2022 U.S. Championships with a total combined score of 112.750. McClain was a promising junior who became age-eligible for senior competition in 2021, with the added pressure of being eligible for the Tokyo Olympic Games due to its postponement. However, McClain withdrew from the Olympic selection to focus on 2024 after abruptly moving from her home in West Virginia to train in Texas at the World Olympics Gymnastics Academy under Valeri Liukin. She returned to competition this year at the Winter Cup and won the all-around gold medal and won the all-around gold medal at the City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy. However, McClain’s status was a question mark heading into this competition because she withdrew from the U.S. Classic in July due to a concussion and also had the flu. She overcame these obstacles to hit eight routines and win the all-around title.
Right behind McClain in the standings was Shilese Jones. Jones was the leader after night 1, but she ended up second overall after she fell on both the balance beam and the uneven bars on night 2, and she would have won the title had she not fallen twice. Jones has been competing at the senior level since 2018 and was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the 2018 Pan American Championships. She finished 10th in the all-around at the 2020 Olympic Trials and was not selected for the Olympic team. Her best results yet have come in 2022, winning silver all-around at both the U.S. Classic and the U.S. Championships
“You know, to fall twice and still end up in second place, this just really only the beginning for me,” Jones said after the competition.
Jordan Chiles returned to elite competition for the first time since the Olympic Games to win the all-around bronze medal. Both Chiles and Jade Carey have been competing in NCAA Gymnastics and are showing that it is possible to compete at the NCAA and elite levels at the same time. They are the first Olympic gymnasts to return to elite competition after competing in the NCAA. Carey finished fifth in the all-around behind the reigning World bronze-medalist Kayla DiCello. Carey won the vault gold medal while Jones tied with Leanne Wong for the uneven bars title. Wong is the reigning World silver medalist, but she withdrew from the all-around competition due to an ankle injury. McClain also picked up balance beam gold, and Jones won her second event title on the floor exercise.
The top eight gymnasts in the all-around were automatically selected for the 2022-23 Senior Women's National Team. These gymnasts were McClain, Jones, Chiles, DiCello, Carey, Skye Blakely, Lexi Zeiss, and Elle Mueller. However, additional gymnasts can be added to the national team later on, and this is likely, especially for Wong. The next competition for these gymnasts will be the Worlds selection camp, which will be held in early October. There, five gymnasts will be selected to compete at the World Championships which will be held in Liverpool, England from October 26 through November 6.